Healthy chicken nuggets with Parmesan are baked, not fried, and kids of every age (and grown-ups) love them. Say goodbye to the drive-thru!
Why you’ll love it: These chicken nuggets are much more tasty than purchased nuggets and they’re better for you.
How long it takes: less than a half hour
Equipment you’ll need: 3 shallow bowls, baking pan and wire rack that fits inside
If you guys could describe Rachel Cooks in three words, I hope you’d choose “THE BEST BLOG.”
Ha, kidding. Well, I mean, if you wanted to say that, I wouldn’t stop you or anything.
But in all seriousness, I hope words like these come to your mind:
I try to keep all of those things in mind when I develop recipes to share with you. It’s not difficult since it’s the way we eat in our own home.
These homemade chicken nuggets are a good example of that philosophy. They’re not difficult to make (easy) and you won’t need a bunch of strange ingredients. Other than the chicken, you probably have everything you need already in your pantry (approachable).
Most chicken nuggets are deep-fried which isn’t all that healthy. If you buy store-brand frozen nuggets or restaurant nuggets, they are high in sodium and unhealthy fats, along with ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Often the chicken is pressed chicken parts that may include tendons, bones, fat, connective tissues and nerves. Homemade nuggets are low in fat because they’re baked and are made with healthy wholesome ingredients.
My kids love homemade chicken nuggets. It’s one of the few meats they’ll actually eat. It may be that they can eat them with their fingers and dip them in sauce (fun) but at least they’re eating healthy homemade food. Truthfully, we all love nuggets. I often put them on a green salad with ranch dressing. They are definitely not just for kids (family-friendly!).
About This Recipe
The oven baked nuggets are made using a basic breading technique that you’re probably already familiar with. It’s a three bowl process. The chicken pieces are first dipped in flour, then in beaten eggs, and then a mixture of bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasonings.
The nuggets don’t take long to bake, less than 20 minutes, because the chicken is cut into bite-sized pieces. They are baked on a wire rack which is placed inside a foil lined baking sheet. You won’t have to wash the baking sheet and the wire rack can go in the dishwasher. Easy clean-up!
I’ll get you started on making your own chicken nuggets here and give you lots of helpful tips. As always, you’ll find the printable recipe card near the end of the post with complete instructions, measurements, and nutrition information.
What You’ll Need
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: No pressed chicken bits and pieces here, just high protein, low fat chicken white meat that you cut yourself. Remember, good quality chicken will give you the best tasting nuggets.
- All-Purpose Flour, Salt, and Ground Black Pepper: This simple mixture will be the first step of the breading process. The seasoned flour helps the eggs coat the meat.
- Eggs: Lightly beaten eggs comprise the second step and will help the bread crumbs stick.
- Bread Crumbs, Parmesan Cheese, and Garlic Powder: This trio is the tasty breading. The green can Parmesan cheese works fine. Did you know that it’s easy to make your own bread crumbs? Learn how to turn your day-old bread into handy homemade bread crumbs.
- Oil Spray: A light coating of oil helps the nuggets get golden brown and crisp up.
How To Make Baked Chicken Nuggets
Shall we get started? Turn your oven on to preheat (400°F) and line a shallow baking pan with foil. Set a wire rack inside the pan and spray it lightly with nonstick spray.
Baking the nuggets on a wire rack allows the air to circulate on all sides of the nuggets, ensuring that they are good and crispy. If you don’t have a wire rack, don’t worry, your nuggets will still taste great but they’ll have a less crispy side (the bottoms). Hint: Use the rack from your toaster oven as a substitute!
Using a very sharp knife, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. They can be any size really but remember that they are supposed to be finger food. The most important thing is to keep them about the same size so that they cook evenly. Chicken that is very well chilled, even with a bit of frost in it, will cut more easily.
Set out three shallow bowls. Pasta or salad bowls work well. In the first bowl, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. In the second bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. In the third bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and seasoning.
Ready? Dredge (dip) the chicken pieces in the flour making sure all sides are coated. Next, dip them in the egg mixture. Finally, coat each nugget with the bread crumbs. coating the chicken as evenly as possible.
Arrange the nuggets on the wire rack, sides not touching, and give them all a light misting of oil spray.
All right! Pop the pan into the oven and set the timer for 16 minutes. Keep in mind that larger nuggets will take longer to cook; smaller ones less time. Bake them until they are golden brown and firm. Their internal temperature should be 165°F.
Dipping Sauces For Chicken Nuggets
I know you probably have your own favorite dipping sauce (honey mustard!) but here are a few of ours:
- Pizza sauce or marinara
- Homemade ranch dressing
- Barbecue sauce or cherry chipotle BBQ sauce
- Fry sauce (French fry dipping sauce)
- Salsa or chipotle salsa
- Hot honey (my favorite!)
The best way to tell is to use an instant read thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of a nugget. The internal temperature should be 165°F.
If you don’t have a thermometer, cut into a nugget. The inside should be white and opaque, not bloody. The meat should be firm.
The best tip I can give you is to cook them on a wire rack. The air can flow freely around all sides of the nuggets ensuring that they’ll be crispy.
Spraying homemade nuggets lightly with oil helps crisp them up, too. Purchased nuggets are partially deep-fried before they are frozen so they have plenty of oil already.
Make it Your Own
- Have an air fryer? Try these crispy air fryer chicken nuggets or air fryer chicken tenders.
- Change up the seasoning. We love these baked Caesar chicken tenders, pizza chicken tenders, and taco chicken tenders. It’s easy to change chicken tenders into nuggets, it’s just a matter of cutting the chicken differently.
- For dairy free nuggets, omit the Parmesan cheese. Substitute an additional ⅓ cup bread crumbs. Add a teaspoon of Italian seasoning and ½ teaspoon salt.
- Use gluten-free bread crumbs, if desired.
- Roast the chicken nuggets with vegetables. Prepare a separate pan of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, sugar snap peas, pretty much any vegetable. They can roast in the oven at the same time as the nuggets.
- Another alternative is fast-cooking chicken bites. Cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into half inch pieces and flash fry them in a skillet. This recipe is really popular and for good reason! Chicken bites are crispy and juicy, and easy to make.
Make the nuggets ahead of time and freeze them. Place uncooked breaded nuggets in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze for 1 to 2 hours. Transfer them to resealable freezer bags, and freeze for up to 1 month. Bake as directed, without thawing, but add a few minutes to the cooking time.
Or freeze cooked chicken nuggets. When you’re hungry, pop them in an air fryer or toaster oven for ten minutes, until heated through and crispy.
Storage & Reheating Tips
Wrap leftover chicken nuggets and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to one month.
For best crispy results, reheat leftover chicken nuggets in an air fryer or toaster oven (or regular oven) for a few minutes until heated through. They can be reheated in the microwave but they won’t be as crispy and the chicken may get dry.
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup plain bread crumbs
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- nonstick cooking spray or olive oil spray
- ½ cup marinara sauce, for dipping (optional, or sauce of your choice)
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with foil (for easier clean-up). Place a wire rack coated lightly with nonstick spray on the baking sheet.
- In a small shallow dish, combine the flour, salt, and pepper. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate small shallow dish. In a third shallow dish, mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and garlic powder.
- Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour, followed by the beaten eggs, and then the bread crumb mixture, coating each chicken piece as evenly as possible.
- Arrange the coated chicken pieces in a single layer on the wire rack. Spray lightly with oil.
- Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 16 to 18 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Serve marinara sauce for dipping, if desired.
- Nutrition information is calculated for 6 nuggets and does not include dipping sauce.
- Wrap leftover chicken nuggets and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in the freezer for up to one month. Reheat in a toaster oven or air fryer for 5 minutes or until heated through.
- If you prefer, use homemade bread crumbs. Make homemade pizza sauce for dipping.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.